By Spc. Nathan Thome (4th ID)June 17, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Army fuelers worked around the clock at the U.S. Air Force Academy airfield, to keep helicopters in the fight against the Black Forest Fire.
Fifteen Soldiers assigned to Company E, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, supported the firefighting effort by conducting rapid refuels and equipment maintenance.
"We received the mission on short notice, but our Soldiers were motivated and ready to go, and set up here as quickly as possible," said Sgt. 1st Class Roderick Rodriguez, petroleum supply noncommissioned officer in charge, Company E, 2-4 GSAB.
Due to their efforts, the pilots can spend more time fighting the fire, without the need to fly an extended distance back to Butts Army Air Field to top off their fuel, said Rodriguez.
"We've been running a forward area refueling point for all of the aviation aircraft from 2-4 GSAB ; what that does, is it gets aviators closer to the fight," said Rodriguez. "Instead of going back to the installation to refuel, here they are within 15 miles of the fire, so they are able to stay longer fighting the fire."
Spc. Matthew Vela, petroleum supply specialist, Company E, 2-4 GSAB, has been supporting the aviators since Thursday morning.
"When we got the call to provide support, we were all able to react with good timing and get out here and set up the forward area refueling point quickly," said Vela.
Although their primary focus was refueling, the aviation Soldiers still took the time to check over the aircrafts to ensure there wasn't any damage; this included the Bambi Buckets, which are lightweight, strong, flexible firefighting buckets used by helicopters to carry water.
"We aren't in the lead for maintenance, but if something needs replacing, we take care of that," said Spc. Robert Gregory, petroleum supply specialist, Company E, 2-4 GSAB. "We are constantly policing up equipment and checking hoses to see if there are any leaks."
In addition to their responsibilities, the Company E Soldiers also provided food and water to the pilots so they could continue the firefighting effort.
"We're not only providing fuel, but also meals for the pilots," said Rodriguez. "They're out there in the fight; they don't really have time to eat, so when they come here for fuel, we provide them with sandwiches, meals ready-to-eat, Gatorade and water."
Rodriguez said providing support for the Black Forest Fire has instilled a sense of pride and duty in the Soldiers.
"Since we've been out here, they've seen the fires and the plumes of smoke," said Rodriguez. "So even though we were on a three day weekend, they didn't mind coming out here; they're volunteers that came out here to provide support and assist the city."
Gregory, one of Rodriguez's Soldiers, expressed what it meant to him to be able to support those who were on the front lines of the firefighting effort.
"It means a lot, actually being able to help the people here; I know a lot of them lost their homes and are in a shelter, so I understand that we have to work through the weekend," said Gregory. "I just think to myself; what if I were in that position and my house had been burnt down? I'm just doing my part to try to help."